After five years of service as vice president of the University of Toronto and principal of UTM, Deep Saini is taking an administrative leave. He officially left his position on July 1, 2015, and will resume work on January 1, 2016. Governing Council, U of T’s highest governing body, approved Saini’s reappointment to office where he will remain until December 31, 2020.
For every five years of service, university administrators can take up to one year of leave. Saini’s leave will last six months. His term began in July 2010 and ended on June 30 this year. With the fiftieth anniversary of UTM coming up in 2017, he plans to use the time to catch up on his research and set priorities for the next five years at UTM.
“I thought it was a good time with the anniversary coming up, for the senior person here to step back and do some thinking about what way we want to go,” Saini said in a phone interview with The Varsity. “One could do that while working, but it is so much better to do it when you do not have a daily grind of taking care of things.”
Over the years, UTM has grown into a midsize university, which has come with its own problems. Saini hopes to focus on two key points. “One of the areas that I will be working on is how to improve our retention of students — how to make sure those who start, continue, and that number is higher than yesterday,” Saini said. The other area is expanding programs to meet the university’s needs in the western GTA, especially with the talk of opening another university in Brampton.
In addition to planning for the next phase at UTM, Saini also aims to contribute to research projects on urban ecology and sustainable agriculture. Although he no longer teaches in the classroom, he has a background as a biology professor and plans to catch up on research while he is away.
Saini began his administrative career in 1996 at the University of Montréal. He then spent a few years as the dean of the faculty of environment at the University of Waterloo, which he called a watershed step in his life. According to Saini, the faculty was in some difficulty and is now probably the foremost place in Canada for environmental studies. “All of that turnaround happened under my watch and I just loved it — the idea of building an institution,” Saini said.
Reflecting on his experience, Saini is proud of what he has learned and is excited to share it when he returns. “It will be 20 years of experience in administration, where you have seen it all, or at least believe you have seen it all, because new things keep coming at you regardless of how much you know,” Saini says. “Administration at the senior level is not an entry level job — it is something that takes years of experience of having grappled with issues that come up and eventually you get good at it.”